Roma Activist: Give us a voice and we’ll change our world


The Roma community has not only been the largest minority group in Hungary but also the most deprived.

One of the many big challenges the Roma community face is the lack of education and the popularly but incorrect term of the "culture of the poor"? No, it is not the culture of the poor; it is the wrongdoing of a political system, oppressing and demonising Roma people, and, the most part ensuring they don’t have a political voice within their own country.

How could a person think about education and citizenship engagement when in many places they still do not have proper sanitation, water or electricity? What should Roma person do if they get discriminated and denied access to healthcare, or get rejected on a job only because their skin is darker, or because they are from Roma origin? As one Roma woman said in Hungary, "We do not live day by day, rather to try to survive it".

The time for denial amongst the powerful nation states must end. The truth is that most of the Roma people face trouble across many policy fields, such as education, healthcare, employment, and housing. However, the question is whether those issues stand alone or are all connected by centuries of discrimination and denial of proper education, rooted to the politics of Hungary.

Although Hungary has many NGO’s working with civilians, and are doing local community work, but their voice is often lost when they do not come together and present themselves as one. Of course we must understand that the Roma, like many communities is fantastically diverse but without the power of unity, the government would not take any of the Roma representatives seriously, neither in their policies nor their pleas for justice.

We could always fool ourselves and go along the lines of saying that Hungary has a proper minority representation system because we have a few Roma MP’s, but a few disparate Roma MP’s do not make a powerful voice. Roma MPs generated by that minority voting system can hardly make an impact needed for great change.

I don’t have clear answers but I know we need more power, that’s why I’ve come to London to work with Operation Black Vote, and, hopefully learn from the Black political experience. Then I will go home and help give my people the voice they need.

Adrienn Kovacs